Leadership Management

Greentop Gifts CEO on Thriving During COVID

2020 forced many business owners to pivot, and many to rethink the way they go to market, including the ways in which they served their customers. For my business Greentop Gifts, there were three main things that helped us thrive in uncertain times – 1) Invest in yourself; 2) Become creative and resourceful; and 3) Be smart with your business finances. 

Invest in yourself

After being nudged by a certain someone, who may or may not be my husband, I quit my corporate job in February of 2020.  I knew that if I didn’t invest in myself and my business, no one else would.  Little did I know that weeks later COVID would be upon us.  However, despite COVID, it has been the best decision I’ve made for my business. 

A sample of birthday wrapping paper from Greentop Gifts

Without my full-time attention my business wasn’t going to grow, and I wasn’t going to find opportunities that I desperately needed to take Greentop Gifts to the next level.  Once I was able to focus full time on Greentop I put my attention on applying for every grant and pitch competition I could.  As a result, I got the chance to attend a Founder’s Bootcamp hosted by Ad Adstra Ventures as part of one pitch competition. While I didn’t win the grand prize, I got an invitation to the workshop.

The Bootcamp jumpstarted my thinking and helped me redefine the way I share my brand story.  It was a deep dive in helping founders get to the next level in their business. One of the biggest takeaways from the program was the art of the humble brag. As women we are often shy about sharing our wins and success. Ad Adstra’s Bootcamp really helped me retool my humble brag and get comfortable with sharing the wins when pitching Greentop Gifts.  Getting comfortable with the humble brag is extremely helpful for entrepreneurs or those who work corporate jobs.  That is one of many positive outcomes of the investment I made in me. 

Become creative and be resourceful

In 2020, we received grants from iFundwomen/Visa, Beyonce’s BeyGood Foundation & NAACP, and New Voices/ JPMorganChase. These grants helped us maintain our marketing efforts and continue to maintain payroll for employees. 

There are so many resources like iFundwomen, HelloAlice, and EnrichHer that provide a list of grants that are available for small businesses to apply for. I applied for every grant and pitch competition that we qualified for (and some that we didn’t).  I save my answers to any standard questions and re-work them for future applications to make them applicable. Once I got comfortable with sharing our wins and hard work in a way that felt genuine and truly told our story, our applications for grants started to get selected.  I networked with investors who attended those pitches, I cold-called people who run a successful business and I reached out to anyone in my own personal network who I thought might be able to help us push the envelope on what we were trying to do.  Some conversations went further than others, but I used every resource I had to keep my business thriving through everything we experienced in 2020.  

Be smart with your financing 

Take a temperature check of your business. Do you need short-term funding for the next round of product or require a venture capital firm to get to the next step as you scale?

As a consumer goods business, we have only done a friends and family round of fundraising. We have used our revenue to continue to reinvest in our business. Every business is different but if you are in a place that you can continue to use your earnings and pour them back into the business then do it!  But above all else, be honest with yourself and make smart decisions when you ponder how to finance your business.   Running a small business is not easy.  Running a small business in a global pandemic sometimes seems nearly impossible.  By investing in yourself, being creative and resourceful, and being smart with your financing – navigating uncertain times becomes a bit more manageable. It gives you a clear vision of how success can be realized.  It wasn’t easy and it required an unimaginable amount of discipline, but my success in 2020 can be attributed directly to those 3 principles.

Greentop Gifts is a black-owned small business known for their holiday décor and apparel which features their signature character the Black Santa Clarence Claus. CEO and Co-Founder Jacquelyn Rodgers is expanding the product line to include children’s birthdays, beginning with the Birthday Collection gift-wrap which will feature a Celebration Crew of diverse and multicultural children. You can learn more about Greentop Gifts by visiting their website here.

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